Last Friday I attended a very interesting workshop organised by Channel 4 on the theme of “Public Value from Private Enterprise: A growing British movement.” It was an open conversation about the overlaps, if there are some, between publicly-funded organisations with a public service remit, public service organisations funded partly commercially, social enterprise, and private enterprise with a wider sense of meaning or service than the profit motive. It was a gathering of like-minded people but I think it did indicate that there can be considerable overlap. The question that prompts is then how do you know an organisation is creating value when its aims are multi-dimensional, when profit is not the only measure of success?
At present, different bodies try to measure their outcomes in different ways. At the BBC Trust (I was speaking on a panel while wearing that hat), we have an explicit public value remit and have published quite a detailed explanation of the methodology. Channel 4 too has a remit set out in legislation and its own methodology (available here). Social enterprises and some private, only for-profit organisations might use triple bottom line reporting (much written on this but it originated with John Elkington’s Cannibals with Forks. The thought now is to look at the different approaches and see what is common to them, and whether it is possible to set out the principles clearly enough that even the smallest, hardest-pressed public body or social enterprise could create its own toolkit for assessing impact.
Cannibals with Forks: Triple Bottom Line of 21st Century Business
The literature on public value is surprisingly small. Mark Moore wrote the book that started it all, Creating Public Value: Strategic Management in Government, and a couple of follow-ups. There is an Accenture volume, Unlocking Public Value. The think tanks have done quite a lot of work. Nesta has focused most on measuring cultural value. There are several Work Foundation pamphlets. Demos too has looked at aspects of public value. I’m sure there is more around, but it isn’t a big scholarly literature; the focus is largely practical. This is surprising because in fact a lot of organisations – many of them in the arts and elsewhere in the public sector – use a methodology related to the concept of public value. I’m not sure why academics are so uninterested; perhaps it’s because the language used to describe it does vary quite a lot.
However, I believe – along with my Channel 4 hosts last week – that it is a growing movement, thanks in large part to the increasing number of social enterprises, and that a number (who knows how many) of private for-profit entities are also hungry for more value in all senses of the word in what they do.
Creating Public Value: Strategic Management in Government ( CREATING PUBLIC VALUE: STRATEGIC MANAGEMENT IN GOVERNMENT ) BY Moore, Mark H.( Author ) on Mar-25-1997 Paperback